NFL: Ravens, Dolphins similar at the top

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2009

By David Ginsburg
Associated PressJack Harbaugh knew long ago that his son would make an excellent NFL coach. The only question was whether John Harbaugh would ever get the chance to prove his father right.
Jack Harbaugh was coaching at Western Michigan in the mid-1980s when John joined the staff as an assistant. Father and son would ride back and forth to work every day, and football was usually the main topic of conversation.
“You could see then that he had a love and a real passion for the game, not only the Xs and Os, but he cared deeply about the players he coached,” Jack Harbaugh recalled. “John had, and still has, tremendous character and integrity. With those qualities, you know that if you work your way through the ranks, hopefully good things will happen.”
Harbaugh had 24 years of coaching experience when the Baltimore Ravens hired him last January to be their head coach even though he had never served in the NFL as an offensive or defensive coordinator.
And now the Ravens are in the playoffs, facing a Miami team Sunday that performed a similarly profound turnaround under first-year coach Tony Sparano.
Like Harbaugh, Sparano coached 24 years at the college and professional level before receiving his first head coaching job. He never worked as an offensive or defensive coordinator at the professional level, either.
The success of Harbaugh and Sparano should be heeded by those NFL teams with coaching vacancies.
“I think it says something about two organizations and the jobs that the players did this year,” Harbaugh said of the first-round playoff matchup. “It’s two teams having good seasons and playing well and making the playoffs, more than anything else.”